‘The enemy is profit, together we will stop it’: Protesters rally for justice from the Board of Regents

A group of over 50 students marched from the McNamara Alumni Center to Northrop, demanding that student, faculty and staff voices be heard at the “People over Profits” rally.

Celine+Jennings+of+UMN+Climate+Strike+speaks+to+protesters+at+Northrop+Auditorium+on+Friday%2C+Oct.+30.

Shannon Doyle

Celine Jennings of UMN Climate Strike speaks to protesters at Northrop Auditorium on Friday, Oct. 30.

Srilekha Garishakurti

Over 50 people marched Friday from the McNamara Alumni Center to Northrop to express dissatisfaction with the University of Minnesota Board of Regents on a range of issues.

Speakers at the rally criticized the regents for not providing students with tuition refunds for online classes or offering the same grading flexibility of the spring semester despite worsening COVID-19 conditions.

Executive Vice President and Provost Rachel T.A. Croson announced on Friday that students will now have the option to change the grading basis for their classes until Nov. 30. However, unlike last spring, any classes taken pass/fail will not count toward major or minor degree requirements

Students also expressed frustration about the board’s lack of engagement with students, faculty and staff on important campaigns, such as defunding and disarming the University of Minnesota Police Department.

Leaders from UMN Climate Strike, Uprooted & Rising Minneapolis, Minnesota Higher Education Worker Center and Students for a Democratic Society collaborated to organize the rally.

“In our conversations with various people from the administration, the same thing kept coming up, which was that the Board of Regents has the final say on everything, and their hands are tied, and it’s not in their control,” said Sydney Murray, co-lead of UMN Climate Strike.

At the rally, many protesters held signs that read “People over Profits” and “Why are you so afraid of student power?”

“I firmly believe that as students who are paying to be here, students are the most important stakeholders of the University and should have the strongest voice in the decisions that are made, and we just don’t,” said Savannah Wery, co-lead of UMN Climate Strike.

Lauren Hagert, a fourth-year student and protester at the rally, said she joined the rally because she wants more resources on campus.

“I self-fund my own college and for me, being here is a statement to the U to look out for low-income students and especially for [Black, Indigenous and people of color] students who already have so few resources on campus,” Hagert said.

Because the Board of Regents is composed of mainly white men, BIPOC, gender non-conforming and transgender voices are left out of conversations about important policy decisions, many students and speakers at the rally said.

“Making sure that we are giving space for [BIPOC] voices is important because those are the voices that the regents are disregarding the most because the Board of Regents is also very white and very male,” Wery said.

Students also pushed for faculty unionization, the termination of the University contract with Aramark as well as divestment from fossil fuels and Israeli corporations that protesters said are complicit in the violation of Palestinian human rights.

Along with the organizers, student advocates representing groups like Students for Justice in Palestine said they hope the rally will spark change in the administration.

“Long term, we would like to have some sort of intervention in the [Board of] Regents selection process because the whole process is undemocratic as students are not involved in the selection process, and they make all of these decisions that affect students,” Wery said.